Did Paul Rejoice with Those Who Preached Christ Out of Wrong Motives?
Philippians / Chapter 1 / V15-18
“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” ~Phi 1:15-18
In the passage, Paul responded to the problem that some among the church had preached Christ out of selfish ambition and not out of sincerity. This problem was not unique to Paul alone. Many Christians today have similar experiences. We find that there will always be some who preach Christ out of wrong motives. Though these people may be able to preach a doctrinally sound gospel message, their life testimonies are far from matching it. Plagued with severe spiritual shortcomings, some of them may not even be genuine Christians. How then should we respond to these people? Should we obey the truths preached by them?
Strangely, Paul’s reply was “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false or true motives, Christ is preached.” Paul seemed to suggest that “the end justifies the means”. As long as Christ was preached, it did not matter whether Christ was preached out of love or selfish ambition. If this was true, should we also accept them and overlook their hypocrisy?
To answer this question and to understand Paul’s writing, let us look at how the Lord dealt with those who had similar problems.
“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” ~Matt 23:2-3
The Lord taught us that these hypocritical teachers of the law and Pharisees who boasted of God’s law, were not living up to what they preached. Amid making all efforts to preach God’s truth accurately down to the last detail, they had also done all they could to disobey the very thing they preached, making themselves the perfect hypocrites! The Lord warned us sternly against following their examples.
On the other hand, concerning the truths taught by these hypocrites, the Lord instructed us to obey them without reservations. We should not refrain from obeying these teachings simply because they did not teach out of a sincere motive. The reason being, when we obey these teachings, we are obeying God rather than these hypocritical teachers. The teachings spoken by these hypocrites are worthy truths originate from God. Though they have preached with impure motives, it will by no means hinder the power of the Word of God. As long as these teachings are proven to be sound and biblical, we ought to obey them whole-heartedly.
How would God then deal with these people who have in some way aided the Lord in the spreading of His word?
“Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day [Judgment Day], 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” ~Matt 7:21-23
The Lord spoke plainly with regards to these people: they had been destined for hell. The Lord would not feel grateful nor show any mercy towards them. For they proclaimed Christ not because they had any respect or love for God, but to merely satisfy their own lust for glory.
What about genuine believers who preach Christ out of wrong motives? Their souls will be saved, however, they will also be reprimanded by Jesus and lose their rewards in heaven.
From Christ’s own personal experience with these hypocritical teachers, we can begin to understand that Paul was not telling us to compromise and accept such hypocritical behaviour. Neither was he telling us to embrace these people with an open heart. These false teachers had brought immense pain to Paul and he would by no means rejoice over their evil deeds. Paul’s joy came solely from the fact that Christ’s name was being preached and magnified – even though he was fully aware that among them some had preached Christ out of wrong motives.